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Confucian Ritual and Social Harmony

Speaker

Daniel A. Bell (Political Theory, University of Hong Kong); Pei Wang (University of Hong Kong)

Confucians defend hierarchical rituals in a way that seems incompatible with modern ideas of social equality. But Confucian rituals are supposed to benefit not just those with power, but also those on the bottom of social hierarchies. We will illustrate this argument by drawing on examples of social hierarchies in contemporary China, from age-based hierarchies in the family to drinking banquets in academic settings and hierarchical relations between countries. The point is not to defend the status quo but to show how it can be improved by the Confucian ideal of hierarchical rituals.

About the speakers:
Daniel A. Bell (貝淡寧) is a Professor and Chair of Political Theory with the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong. He served as Dean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration at Shandong University (Qingdao) from 2017 to 2022. His books include The Dean of Shandong (2023), Just Hierarchy (co-authored with Wang Pei, 2020), The China Model (2015), The Spirit of Cities (co-authored with Avner de-Shalit, 2012), China's New Confucianism (2008), Beyond Liberal Democracy (2007), and East Meets West (2000), all published by Princeton University Press. He is also the author of Communitarianism and Its Critics (Oxford University Press, 1993). He is the founding editor of the Princeton-China series (Princeton University Press) which translates and publishes original and influential academic works from China. His works have been translated in 23 languages.

Pei Wang is an assistant professor at the School of Chinese, the University of Hong Kong, teaching courses on Chinese intellectual history and comparative philosophy. She completed her PhD thesis on phenomenology at the department of philosophy of Tsinghua University, and was a joint PhD. student in Université Paris 1. She was a post-doc fellow in Tsinghua Institute of Advanced Study in Humanities and Social Science. She is the co-author (with Daniel. A. Bell) of Just Hierarchy: Why Social Hierarchies Matter in China and the Rest of the World, published by Princeton University Press in 2020. She has authored academic articles in English, Chinese, and French, mainly on phenomenology, ethics, and comparative philosophy. She is currently writing a book titled The Power of Calligraphy: A Political History of Calligraphy in China.

Talk co-sponsored by Critical Asian Humanities program (AMES).